Heading Back East, Part 1

Dates: July 30 to 31, 2018

Location: Spokane KOA, Spokane, Washington

Our first stop on the way back east was at the Spokane KOA. The trip through Washington wasn’t too bad. Leaving at the end of rush hour on  Monday wasn’t terrible, traffic-wise. Washington was still a bit smoky from forest fires, but not near as bad as last year.

The only small thing we ran into was that the site the KOA assigned to us was (still) occupied by an RV (we were in well past check-in time). We called the office and told them a couple nearby sites that were empty and they reassigned us to one of those. We left the truck hooked up to the trailer since we had recently filled the tank and didn’t need to run any errands.

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Site at Spokane KOA

Dates: July 31 to Aug. 1, 2018

Location: Deer Lodge KOA, Deer Lodge, Montana

Our second stop along the way was our favorite little KOA in the middle of Deer Lodge, Montana. We’ve apparently been here enough that the owner remembered Malcolm’s name. We unhooked here and Malcolm headed downtown to pick up a couple grocery items and fill the truck with fuel. He also did a little photography while out on his errands.

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Deer Lodge KOA

Dates: Aug. 1 to 4, 2018

Location: Red Lodge KOA, Red Lodge, Montana

We stopped in Red Lodge, Montana for three nights so we could do some sight-seeing for a couple days. We stayed in the same KOA that we attended a rally in last year.

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Red Lodge KOA Site

The rally organizers, Tom and Sherry Egenes, still have their respective businesses in downtown Red Lodge, so we stopped in to visit both of them our first full day there. We also did some shopping while we were there. Lunch was at the local pizza place.

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After a little more shopping, we headed to Red Lodge Ales so Malcolm could sample some of their beers so he would know which ones he wanted to pick up at the store. We also picked up a couple souvenirs while we were there.

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That evening, we drove over to Absarokee and visited with Malcolm’s cousin Sue and her husband Rich. We had a fun visit and met them at the Cowboy Bar restaurant for dinner. We said our goodbyes there and we headed back to the campground.

The next day we took a day trip with the truck (but not the trailer) over the Beartooth Highway. We drove about 38 miles of it to the Top of the World gift shop. We bought a couple souvenirs and turned around to head back to Red Lodge.

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Malcolm took a lot of pictures with the big camera. They are posted in his gallery [HERE].

Once back in town, we had a late lunch at the Red Lodge Ales brewery (downtown was really busy) and did a little more shopping downtown. We also picked up some groceries at the store and headed back to the trailer for the evening. We stayed in and ate dinner at the trailer.

Dates: Aug. 4 to 5, 2018

Location: Buffalo KOA, Buffalo, Wyoming

We left Red Lodge and headed on to Buffalo, Wyoming, staying in the KOA there. The only trip out we made was to fill up the truck with fuel nearby and then walked through the store at the KOA office, picking up some postcards.

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Buffalo KOA Site

Malcolm wandered around and dipped his toes in the creek that runs behind the campground (cold, as expected). He also went to mail out some postcards we had written to different people. On the way to drop them off at the front office, he found these two young rabbits (and later, their mother), frolicking in the grass near the main building.

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As we were hitching up the trailer to leave, Malcolm found this painted rock nestled in the trunk of the tree next to our site. On the back was instructions on logging your find on a Facebook page (Casper Rocks). You can keep the rock, or re-hide it either in the same spot, or, as we did, in a new spot. We thought the rock might enjoy a trip to Wall, South Dakota, so we took it with us.

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Painted Rock find

Dates: Aug. 5 to 6, 2018

Location: Sleepy Hollow Campground & RV Park, Wall, South Dakota

We had an uneventful drive to Wall, South Dakota. There were hundreds of motorcycles on the road (and in Wall) due to the nearby yearly bike rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.

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Teepee found at most South Dakota rest stops

We set up in the Sleepy Hollow Campground, which is only a couple blocks from the famous Wall Drug complex. While we could have walked over, we elected to drive over in the truck so that we could subsequently run by the gas station and fuel up while we were out. We bought a couple souvenirs and did some Christmas shopping before heading out to the gas station, then back to the trailer.

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Sleepy Hollow Campground

Malcolm found a place to hide the painted rock in the campground. On the way back to the trailer, he was stopped by one of our neighbors who was interested in both our Florida license plate and the University of Kentucky sticker on the back window of the trailer. As they talked, Malcolm found out that the other gentleman and his wife live in the next RV resort south of ours in Florida (less than a mile away). He also grew up in Kentucky about an hour from where Malcolm lived as a child. Small world!

Dates: Aug. 6, 2018

Location: Lake Mitchell Campground, Mitchell, South Dakota

Malcolm had made our reservations here based on three things we expected to do in the area. The first was to get the truck serviced. Based on our mileage, Malcolm saw that we would be in this area about the time the oil change was due and that there was a Ford dealer almost across the street from the campground. As it turns out, the “Change Oil Soon” indicator came on literally 40 miles before we got here.

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Our site at Lake Mitchell Campground

The second reason we chose this stop was that Val wanted to take a day trip to De Smet, where one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s homesteads is located. And the final reason was to visit the Corn Palace (again) while we are here.

We got set up here about 3:00. Malcolm called the Ford dealer to see what day we could bring the truck in for its service. They indicated that they had an opening an hour later at 4:00, so we took that appointment and Malcolm headed over to sit at the dealer while they did the work (about 45 minutes).

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Old inventory in the showroom

With that out of the way, we plan on heading up to De Smet tomorrow and the Corn Palace the day after tomorrow.

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Lake Mitchell

From here, we’ll be driving pretty much on through to Nashville (with appropriate overnight stops along the way).

 

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Smooth Sailing On West

Dates: June 9 to 11, 2018

Location: Lafayette KOA, Scott, Louisiana

We ended up staying through to Monday morning. On Sunday, we met our friends Andy and Joanna Grimes for lunch since we missed coming on over on Sunday to camp with them.

On Monday morning at 7:30 Malcolm called the local Goodyear dealer and found that they had two tires in stock that we needed for our trailer. They told us to come on over and they’d take care of us, so we packed up the trailer, hitched up and headed over.

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Ready for new shoes

They had us in and out the door in a little over an hour, so we continued on our way north and west pretty much on schedule. The plan is to get two more tires put on in Washington to match the new Goodyears on the left side if nothing happens along the way (it didn’t).

Dates: June 11 to 12, 2018

Location: Texas Rose RV Park, Tyler, Texas

We found this little RV park near the interstate in Tyler, Texas. Malcolm called ahead and talked to the owner who happened to be out of town at the time, but gave us instructions to check ourselves in and pay for our spot with the envelope drop. Using our Passport America card, the price was only $20 for the night.

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The campground was a bit older and had lots of longer term residents, but it was kept very neat. For the sites on our circle, the campground even provided a fairly new charcoal grill and a plastic tote with charcoal and lighter fluid in it if you wanted to cook out. Nice little touch.

Dates: June 12 to 13, 2018

Location: Cedar Valley RV Park, Guthrie, Oklahoma

We stayed in this campground in Guthrie (no pictures). Their Passport America rate was $18 for the night. It was a quiet park, but rather old and decently kept. It was fine for an overnight.

Dates: June 13 to 14, 2018

Location: WaKeeney KOA, Wakeeney, Kansas

This KOA is kept very neat. They serve ice cream in the evenings and offer pancake and sausage breakfast (we took advantage of both) for a reasonable cost. They’ve been filling up every night during the week as there isn’t much else close to the interstate through western Kansas.

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Dates: June 14 to 15, 2018

Location: Fort Collins North / Wellington KOA, Wellington, Colorado

This KOA was fairly nice, as well. We had a nice, wide concrete slab to park on. When we were rolling in, there were storm clouds over the front range of the Rockies. They eventually blew in, bringing lots of wind, but no rain.

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Malcolm found a couple friends in the pasture adjacent to the side of the campground where the tent sites are. Several of the campers were enjoying our visitors.

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Dates: June 15 to 16, 2018

Location: Buffalo KOA, Buffalo, Wyoming

Due to re-scheduling our stay here and then scheduling it back, we ended up with the last available site that would fit our rig – a really nice patio site. It was only $6 more than what we would have paid for the site we originally booked.

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It was a little windy as we arrived here and it was blowing in cool weather. The temperature was around 70 degrees when we arrived and fairly quickly dropped into the low 60’s. Overnight, it was around 50 degrees. We ended up turning on the furnace in the morning. We also did a little antique shopping in downtown Buffalo.

Dates: June 16 to 17, 2018

Location: Deer Lodge KOA, Deer Lodge, Montana

When we arrived in Deer Lodge, it was around 50 degrees and drizzly rain. It stayed like that all night. We had the furnace on overnight.

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Snow on top of the nearby mountains

Deer Lodge is one of our regular stops. The owner came out and gave us a hug when we arrived. It’s not much of a park, but she keeps the place very neat and tidy.

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Dates: June 17 to 18, 2018

Location: Spokane KOA, Spokane, Washington

When we arrived in Spokane, the temperature and weather had improved considerably. It was sunny and in the 70’s when we got there.

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After we got there, we contacted our friends Tim and Emily Rohrer. They were in the area and agreed to meet us for dinner. In addition to Tim and Emily, Tim’s parents, Bonnie and Doug, also joined us. They recently just started full-timing and were traveling with Tim and Emily.

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Dates: June 18 to ???, 2018

Location: Washington State Fair Campground, Puyallup, Washington

On Monday, we rolled into Puyallup and set up at the fairgrounds campground.

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Now it’s time to visit family. We’re actually keeping the grandchildren for a couple days as Elizabeth and Cole are out of town. Elizabeth flies back in on Thursday.

The trip here from Florida was 3,435 miles. There are more direct routes than what we took, but we wanted to visit folks along the I-10 corridor, so that added a couple hundred miles or so. The following map shows the approximate route here (note the other trip earlier this year to Tennessee and Kentucky is on the same map).

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Eastward to a Rally

Location: Spokane KOA, Spokane, Washington

Dates: Sept. 5 to 6, 2017

We left Gig Harbor with our ash-covered truck and trailer around 9:00 in the morning. The forest fire smoke grew greater as we crossed Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 east of Seattle. It got somewhat better through the state of Washington but was still bad enough we left the air conditioner on recirculate.

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At a fuel stop west of Spokane, we saw Mr. Peanut’s vehicle parked at the gas pumps. Malcolm had to go inside to pay for fuel but didn’t see Mr. Peanut around anywhere.

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We arrived at the Spokane KOA in the afternoon. Spokane was having some pretty smoky skies, as well. Their smoke was from western Montana fires.

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We ate dinner out at Panera Bread and stopped by the store to pick up a couple items, fueling the truck up on the way back to the trailer.

Location: Deer Lodge KOA, Deer Lodge, Montana

Dates: Sept. 6 to 7, 2017

Before we left Spokane, Malcolm called our neighbor in Florida as we were getting emails from our Florida neighborhood indicating that volunteers were helping lash down any loose items before hurricane Irma came ashore. Our neighbor couldn’t help, but sent someone who was volunteering and was helping him. They came over and put a couple items away for us.

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We had a smoky drive from Spokane to Deer Lodge, Montana. The smoke was especially bad through the mountains in Idaho and on into the west end of Montana. The smoke was thinner in Deer Lodge.

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We just left the trailer hooked to the truck at Deer Lodge and just took it easy for the evening.

Location: Red Lodge KOA, Red Lodge, Montana

Dates: Sept. 7 to 10

On Thursday, September 7, we drove from Deer Lodge to Red Lodge, Montana to the KOA there. We were attending the Montana Chapter rally for the Heartland Owners Club. This was the Montana chapter’s first rally.

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Right after we got the trailer set up and the air conditioners running, we headed over to the chapter leader’s site to enjoy a meet and greet with others that had already arrived. We also had a pitch-in dinner later in the evening, with the club (including Malcolm) grilling up hot dogs and hamburgers.

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On Friday morning, many of us drove into Red Lodge and ate breakfast at the Red Lodge Cafe. The food was very good and there was plenty of it.

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After breakfast, we headed back to the campground (it is about 4 miles north of town). Malcolm rode with several others to Woodbine Falls for a photo expedition and hike. Val stayed at the trailer and did some sewing and visited others that had stayed behind.

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The hike back to the falls was a bit strenuous, and we were at around 5,600 ft. elevation. But the views were worth it (despite it being smoky again).

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The actual falls are very narrow and tall. Malcolm didn’t get the best vantage point to photograph the top part of the falls but did get some good shots with his big camera (these photos are from his phone).

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When the falls group got back into town, it was time for the 2:00 brewery tour at Red Lodge Ales. Val drove into town to meet Malcolm there. Malcolm skipped the tour since he hadn’t had lunch and we ate something there at the brewery while others took the tour.

After the brewery stop, we headed over to Absarokee, Montana, about a 35 mile drive west of Red Lodge. We visited with Malcolm’s cousin Sue and her husband, Rich. We’ve been trying to stop through and visit them every year that we’ve been passing through the area and just haven’t matched up schedules. This year we gave them advance warning and called a few days in advance.

We talked for a while at their house then headed to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Afterwards, we returned to their house and talked for a little longer and took a selfie of the four of us.

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After that visit, we headed back to the campground, arriving after dark.

On Saturday morning, everyone was gathered again for a pancake breakfast with all the trimmings and pitch-in sides.

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After the breakfast, a group headed out in vehicles to drive the Beartooth Highway. Malcolm was torn on whether to do that or to walk around downtown Red Lodge and chose the latter. We had a great visit in downtown. They have a lot of nice shops and restaurants. We found some gift items for Christmas to put back for later and a couple items for ourselves.

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We also stocked up on some Red Lodge ales for Malcolm.

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After taking our goodies back to the trailer, we changed clothes and headed back downtown to the pizza place where the final rally dinner and prize giveaway happened. We all had great pizza and salad and many prizes were given away.

Two prizes were auctioned off, with all the auction proceeds going into the Montana Chapter funds to help offset costs for this rally and future rallies. Malcolm was the winning bidder on this nice Yeti cooler. He bought it for half of the price that Amazon was selling it for. The other prize that we didn’t bid on was a nice smoker grill.

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After the dinner, everyone headed back to the campground for margaritas and great conversation. We stuck around for that for a while before heading back to the trailer to start packing up to leave on Sunday. We said goodbyes just in case we missed anyone the next morning.

On Sunday morning, we took our time getting ready to leave and said goodbyes to many of the folks that were trickling out all morning. We eventually hit the road around 9:30 am heading towards our next stop in Gillette, Wyoming.

 

 

 

 

Montana Stop 3 of 3

Location: Missoula KOA, Missoula, Montana

Dates: Aug. 6 to 8, 2017

After changing our tire and riding on our spare, we made it to Missoula just fine. It was only an 85 mile drive. We got set up early in the afternoon at the KOA in Missoula. Our site was very close to the pool (which we never got around to going to) and the office. We even had a separate parking space for the truck.

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While the air conditioners cooled off the rig, we ran across the street to Costco to pick up some items there. We relaxed the rest of the evening. Malcolm caught up with some work. We sat outside for a while, though it was somewhat smoky from nearby forest fires, it was pleasant otherwise.

On Monday morning, we decided to try out the breakfast served by the KOA. It was pretty tasty. Malcolm sampled the whole buffet and Val ordered a couple items ala carte.

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After breakfast, Malcolm loaded up the spare tire and the flat tire and put them both in the back of the truck. He headed out to a nearby Les Schwab tire store and had them fix the punctured tire and swap it and the nearly new spare tire between the rims. The thought was to use the half-worn and patched tire as the spare from now on and put the nearly new tire into service on the aluminum rim.

While they fixed the tire, Malcolm ran a couple errands including a hair cut. When he hadn’t heard back from the tire store, he stopped by the trailer and picked up Val so we could do some other shopping. The tire store called and we picked up the tires while we were out running the other errands.

Back at the trailer, Malcolm put the regular rim with the formerly spare tire on the trailer and put the spare back in the spare tire carrier. The rest of the evening, Malcolm caught up with some more work and we relaxed inside.

Tuesday morning, we got up and had breakfast at the KOA again. We weren’t in a big hurry since we didn’t have a long drive to Spokane, so we took our time getting ready to hitch up the trailer. When Malcolm checked the tire pressure monitor in the truck, it was beeping about low pressure. He saw that another tire was supposedly at 0 PSI. He checked that tire and it was at normal pressure, so it was the tire monitor that was acting up. We went ahead and hitched up the trailer.

After all our usual checks, Val hopped in the truck and noticed that another trailer tire was showing low pressure – the tire we just had put on. Malcolm checked, and sure enough, it was down to 31 PSI. We ended up having to unhook the trailer and remove the tire to take it back to the tire store. In the process, one of the lug nuts got bent up (they have decorative covers on them) and Malcolm couldn’t remove it with the shallow socket he had on the lug wrench. Off to Lowes to buy a deep well socket (we ended up with an entire set).

With the tire off the trailer, Malcolm drove to the tire store while Val let the office know we needed to stay a little longer (it was already almost checkout time by this time). The tire store prioritized us after Malcolm let them know that we needed to leave soon. They found that we had a cracked rim, so there wasn’t anything we could do immediately. The rims have lifetime warranties (we had to replace another one for the same reason last fall), so we’ll submit a claim to get a replacement, but will have to wait until we get out to the Tacoma area next week.

Back at the trailer, Malcolm mounted the spare tire (the one with the plug from the screw we picked up a couple days earlier) and we said a little prayer before we hit the road.

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One More Time

We made it to Spokane just fine later in the afternoon. We’ll update you more on that stop in the next blog entry.

Montana Stop 2 of 3

Location: Deer Lodge KOA, Deer Lodge, Montana

Dates: Aug. 4 to 6, 2017

We arrived on Friday to a very smoky campground in Deer Lodge, Montana. There are forest fires somewhat close by and there was little wind and hot weather making things a bit worse.

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Our spot in Deer Lodge

The smoke was thick enough that it was nearly blotting out the sun and casting an orange glow on everything, which is evident in the picture of our trailer, above.

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The smoky sky

Later in the afternoon, the wind picked up and blew most of the smoke away, leaving a mostly blue sky for us.

On Saturday, we didn’t do much other than some grocery shopping and laundry. Malcolm was feeling bad on Friday and Saturday. We think it might be a side effect of some allergy meds he is taking.

On Sunday morning, we were moving slowly since our next stop was in Missoula, only about 80 miles away. The plan was to hit the road around 11:00 AM, which gave us plenty of time to get things ready to go. It was a good thing, too. When Malcolm went out to the truck to get it ready to hitch up, he turned on the tire pressure monitor as he always does and it started beeping that one of the trailer tires was low.

After checking the tire in question with a tire gauge, Malcolm determined that the tire was indeed very low on air. He got the spare tire down and after we pulled in the slides, Malcolm pulled the low tire off the trailer and put it in the back of the truck. A screw was visible in the tread.

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Checking the air in the spare

With the spare aired up to the right pressure, it was put on the trailer and we hitched up and headed out. We didn’t figure we’d find anywhere to fix our tire in Deer Lodge on a Sunday. We were fairly confident that we could make it the 80 miles to Missoula without a spare tire (we did).